Who Has The Edge? (Position Grid)  


Giants face Eagles' familiar wave of momentum


Donovan McNabb has been about as effective against the Giants as Manning has against the Eagles this season. However, McNabb has played at a very high level over the past six weeks and seems to be in a comfort zone that has teammates responding. He will have to get rid of the ball quickly because the Giants could attack him early.

Donovan McNabb

Brian Westbrook is arguably the most versatile running back in the league and is patient enough to know that if coach Andy Reid isn't going to get him the ball in the running game, he'll find a way to throw it to him. Westbrook carried the ball a career-high 33 times in the Eagles' regular-season win over the Giants and responded with 131 yards.

Brian Westbrook

Rookie DeSean Jackson is the big-play guy on the edges, but Westbrook really is the top receiver in the group. There's no go-to player in the unit except for Westbrook, who showed in the wild-card round with a 71-yard scoring play why he is so special. Tight end Brent Celek, L.J. Smith's backup, is emerging as this season's Kevin Boss.

The Eagles don't let McNabb get touched very often, as they allowed just 23 sacks in the regular season. The Vikings sacked McNabb three times in the wild-card game, though, and the Giants are going to come after the QB if the Eagles can't run. Philadelphia hasn't shown the toughness to push for extra yards, which has cost it games.

Jon Runyan

Ends Trent Cole and Juqua Parker are an underrated tandem who have combined for 14 sacks. Tackles Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson aren't just gap stuffers, but they have 89 total tackles. This is a rugged foursome that forces gap control and is solid enough technique-wise to create seams for blitzing safeties.

Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley had 20 tackles in two games against the Giants. Chris Gocong is a scrapper, and fellow outside linebacker Akeem Jordan has been at his best the past five games. The key is for them is to get to the point of attack before lead blockers do so they can force the direction of the play and get in on tackles.

The Eagles lined up in a "heavy" or three-safety set to start the wild-card game last week to fortify the run defense, with Quintin Demps joining Quintin Mikell and Brian Dawkins at the safety spot. They likely will show similar looks until Manning starts connecting on enough passes to get them in a base defense or nickel packages.

Brian Dawkins

Eagles kicker David Akers has missed seven field-goal attempts from 30 yards and beyond this season. He could be playing in tough weather conditions. Returner DeSean Jackson is dangerous and won't go down on first contact.

Andy Reid has his team on a mission. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is a great schemer and likely will have a few unscouted run blitz schemes set to throw at the Giants. Reid has shown more of a willingness to stick with the running game of late, which, even if not generating a ton of yards, has kept defenses honest.

The Eagles are riding a wave of momentum and hope to be this year's Giants; the wild-card team that wins it all while playing on the road. McNabb is playing with more confidence than at any point this season, and Westbrook is healthy. Most importantly, the defense has shown a bloodlust that could prove the difference.

Eli Manning failed to throw for more than 191 yards in either meeting with the Eagles this season, but he did have three touchdown passes to just one interception. Manning, a Pro Bowl pick, is a caretaker of the offense. He will have opportunities to throw because the Eagles will load up the run box with at least one additional safety.

With three weeks to rest his ailing knee, Jacobs could be hungry and healthy, which might pose a huge problem for the Eagles. The pile-mover sets the tone of New York's offense and makes life easier for Derrick Ward, who's a tough change-of-pace replacement. If Jacobs is able to gain traction early, he could be a headache, literally, to slow down late.

Brandon Jacobs

Kevin Boss, the tight end, is the guy who gets in the end zone, along with wide receiver Amani Toomer. Boss has played fairly well against the Eagles, who will know where he is. Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith are more possession types. If the Eagles can slow down the running game, this group will be put to the test. Boss could be the key.

Kevin Boss

This is arguably the best unit in the NFL. Center Shaun O'Hara and guard Chris Snee are rugged, smart and keen to what type of games the Eagles will send at them. It will be hard to establish a physical edge since the Eagles' defensive front doesn't back down, but this group can roll with just about anything.

Shaun O'Hara

End Justin Tuck is as good as they come, and Mathias Kiwanuka is a steady threat off the edge. Key to this game will be the interior pressure that can be provided by overlooked tackles Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield. If they're able to flush McNabb to the edges, Kiwanuka and Tuck could be in position to make him get rid of the ball quicker.

New York could play more nickel and dime set than base sets based on Philadelphia's propensity to pass, leaving two linebackers on the field most of the day. If middle linebacker Antonio Pierce gets going early, so will the Giants. Outside linebacker Danny Clark could be matched up against Westbrook in pass situations with safety help.

Antonio Pierce

While Philadelphia overloaded with safeties to fortify its run defense, New York opened the Dec. 7 game against the Eagles with six defensive backs and just one linebacker to help limit the pass. The gamesmanship between the defensive coordinators in the secondary is just one of many tricks we'll see on this side of the ball.

Kicker John Carney and punter Jeff Feagles are Pro Bowl picks, and they know the conditions well at the Meadowlands. The Giants are just about even with the Eagles in kickoff and punt returns.

John Carney

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride have recently interviewed for head-coaching jobs elsewhere. They've been in these situations before and haven't been distracted. A strong performance by either of their units could lead to bigger opportunities for them.

Jacobs' return to relative full health is huge. If he has his knee under him, he also might leave a few Eagles under him. He makes life easier for everyone on the offense, especially Ward and Manning. The Giants need to stay out of long down-and-distance situations and hold firm should the Eagles strike first. The Giants are at home and can re-start momentum at any point of the game. Their pride could work in their favor.



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